The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bad to Horrendous

It's reasonable to judge the competence and leadership abilities of a chief executive by examining the competence and leadership abilities of his/her direct reports. John Kerry, Barack Obama's bumbling Secretary of State, provides the American people with still another reason to question Barack Obama's appointments to key administration positions.

In a closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission, Kerry made the utterly outrageous suggestion that unless peace with the palestinians is achieved, Israel might become "an apartheid state." Kerry walked back that statement once the Daily Beast broke the story, but I think it exemplifies the warped foreign policy views of the Obama administration—to wit, unless Israel agrees to commit national suicide by signing a "peace agreement" with an entity that is not even willing to agree that Israel has a right to exist, Israel will devolve into an apartheid state. This statement is so outrageous, so factually and historically incorrect, and so inflammatory, that Kerry should be forced to resign. Here's the problem—Barack Obama has not disavowed Kerry's babbling and likely agrees with him.

Victor Davis Hansen dissects the carcass of Barack Obama's now moribund foreign policy (read the entire article). In commenting on the Middle East he writes:
In the Middle East, Obama felt that reach-outs and Cairo-style oratory would assure the Islamic world that he would never intervene in its affairs. Obama supposedly understood historic Middle East grievances, and his own personal story was proof of that insight. Again, Obama did not so much reject prior American policy as not really understand it in the first place: appreciation of Israel’s unique democracy and pro-American sentiment, assurance that Iran must not go nuclear, advocacy for gradual liberalization to avoid the false choices between dictatorship and Islamism, resistance to new Chinese and old Russian expansionism in the Middle East, and protection of the sometimes odious but nonetheless stable Persian Gulf sheikhdoms that so much of the world depended upon to export oil.

The Middle East is now in chaos after the Cairo-like speeches, the pressures on Israel, the red lines in Syria, the on-again, off-again sanctions on Iran, the lead-from-behind bombing of Libya and subsequent Benghazi chaos, the flipping and flopping over Egypt, and the alienation of the monarchical Persian Gulf allies. The one constant is not so much doubt about American intent as it is agreement that the U.S. does not know what it is doing, and that there is not much reason to care even if it did know what it was doing.
It's frightening to watch this administration repeatedly attempt to marginalize an ally and twist itself into a pretzel in a futile attempt to appease Islamists who hate everything western. The sad thing is that appeasement and fantasy do not do Arab countries any favors. Their culture of hatred has led to dictatorship, economic chaos, corruption, and a pathetic standard of living. By encouraging their false view that it's all the west's (and Israel's fault), Barack Obama's indirect apologies for his own country, side swipes at Israel, and lack of candor about the Arab world's monumental internal problems further enables the Arab people to reject change.

Victor Davis Hansen suggests that Obama's foreign policy has gone "from bad to none." With respect to Israel, it has gone from bad to horrendous.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


On Tuesday, November 29, 2005, I wrote the first post for this blog:
The center is always a difficult position to occupy. If you think about it for a moment, you're surrounded in every direction by people with opinions, positions, and ideas that cascade toward you. You listen and evaluate, trying to make sense out of the noise.

Because you're at the center, those farther out -- on the left or the right -- accuse you of having no true convictions. Ironically, those on the left think you're a neo-con, and those on the right think you're a liberal.

And yet, it's been my feeling that the further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

It's also been my experience that it's hard to hold a position at the center. You often hear a compelling argument (from the right or the left) and feel affinity with the position taken.

"I guess I'm right (or left) of center," you say to yourself.

But then you hear an idiotic or irrational position coming from the same source ... you shake your head in dismay ... and move back to the center again.

The intent of my occasional musings here will not be to support any position on either the right or the left unless it makes sense in the real world, not the fantasy world that idealogues imagine. I suspect there will be times when I side with the right, and other times when I side with the left. That's okay, I respect rational arguments, regardless of the source. Hope you enjoy my humble contribution to the blogosphere.
This is my 1000th OnCenter post.

Over the years I have been critical of both the Right and the Left, but in recent years the Left has has taken center stage for most of my criticism. Sure, the Right insists on maintaining antiquated positions on many social issues—positions that are sometimes mean-spirited, often out of the modern mainstream, and damaging to those who need a pull up the ladder. But their positions on the economy, personal freedom, the dangers of big government (debt, spending, and increasing dependency), and the need for a strong foreign policy are to be applauded. The Left tries to be the ideology of the people, but ironically, most of their positions hurt the very people they purport to care most about. The left is the champion of big government, even when every shred of evidence indicates that most government programs are at best ineffective and wasteful, and at worst, corrupt and damaging to those who participate. The Left has embraced class warfare—an ugly and potentially dangerous position—suggesting that those who have succeeded financially are somehow to be condemned, their wealth redistributed, and their contribution to this country denigrated. Worse still, the Left has encouraged greater and greater government dependency, tearing at the fabric of our national growth.

OnCenter remains in the middle, calling things as the are, not as some fantasy view might like them to be. Looking back over 1000 posts, I have been right a lot more than I have been wrong. That's not bragging or spiking the football, it a simple fact. Are there opposing views? Of course. But those views must be grounded in reality, not wishful thinking. They must be supported by facts, not beliefs. They must be debated without ad hominem attacks and demagoguery.

I'll continue to post to this blog with the same intent I had with post # 1 — to make "a comment or two that might provoke you to think."

Friday, April 25, 2014

You Never Know

As I predicted earlier this month, John Kerry's bumbling efforts to pressure Israel into a peace agreement with the amorphous Palestinians has crashed and burned. Among many examples of the Obama administration's real position on Israel, Kerry suggested that Israel would be censured internationally, isolated, and otherwise condemned by the international community for refusing to commit national suicide and make "peace" with an entity that is sworn to their destruction. The Obama administration worked hard to isolate our only true ally in the Middle East. They failed.

Richard Fernandez comments and quotes a dejected New York Times in the process:
Another catastrophe has overtaken John Kerry. It’s almost routine now. The Middle East peace process that was going to fix everything has finally gone belly up. John Kerry’s tireless overtures have somehow resulted in the Palestinian authority joining Hamas. You wonder how he did that. That alliance with the terror organization deep-sixed any hopes for a deal with Israel. The New York Times dolefully reports that things aren’t working out as planned:
The unity pact, coming days before the April 29 expiration date for the American-brokered peace talks that have been the mainstay of Secretary of State John Kerry’s tenure, surprised officials in Washington, which, like Israel, deems Hamas a terrorist group and forbids direct dealings with it. After months of intensive shuttle diplomacy in which Mr. Kerry staked his reputation on the peace process and even dangled the possibility of releasing an American convicted of spying for Israel to salvage the lifeless talks, his spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, called the Palestinian move “disappointing” and the timing “troubling.”

“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties,” Ms. Psaki said, citing conditions Hamas has repeatedly rejected. “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.”
When asked to name just a single foreign policy accomplishment by the Obama administration under either Hillary Clinton or John Kerry, Ms. Psaki seemed momentarily stumped.

Again, Fernandez comments:
Less charitable observers have charged that Clinton and Obama have presided over an unending string of foreign policy catastrophes including the inexplicable mixup in Libya resulting from switching sides in the ‘War on Terror’ and allowing 500 million of weapons to reach al-Qaeda militants.

That’s a pretty serious accusation whose only mitigating circumstance is that they might have done it by accident. With this crowd — who promised “smart diplomacy” — you never know which disasters are intentional and which are simply caused by imbecility. When the president is not out trying to treat Putin like a doorman, Kerry pulls a wrong way Corrigan. That’s on days when Hillary isn’t watching consulates getting torched by mobs inspired by YouTube video producers.

What is perhaps most alarming is the inexhaustible vein of of incompetence in the administration. Clinton, Obama, Kerry and Sebelius are world-class somethings, though what exactly world-class-whats is debatable. Opening the newspapers has almost become painful exercise in observing “another one bites the dust”.

This time it’s the Middle East peace process. You’re almost tempted to say: stop! stop! It’s too painful to watch.
During the Bush presidency, the media leaped at any opportunity to point out how "stupid" George W. Bush actually was. But the travails of his administration pale in comparison to the abject failure of the Obama administration in both the domestic and foreign policy realm. An "inexhaustible vein of incompetence" hits it right on the head.

But we were told repeatedly in 2008 and again in 2012 that Barack Obama is smart, really, really smart! And yet, his smart diplomacy has lead us to a place where "you never know which disasters are intentional and which are simply caused by imbecility."


Thursday, April 24, 2014


Barack Obama's dithering on the Keystone pipeline is, to be honest, small potatoes when compared to any of his administration's more significant missteps, but it is representative of cynical political machinations that serve only his own ideological agenda and not this nation's best interest.
The Washington Post (a staunch defender of this president) has finally had enough. The Post's editors write:
IF FOOT-DRAGGING were a competitive sport, President Obama and his administration would be world champions for their performance in delaying the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Last Friday afternoon, the time when officials make announcements they hope no one will notice, the State Department declared that it is putting off a decision on Keystone XL indefinitely — or at least, it seems, well past November’s midterm elections. This time, the excuse is litigation in Nebraska over the proposed route, because that might lead to a change in the project that various federal agencies will want to consider. The State Department might even decide to substantially restart the environmental review process . This is yet another laughable reason to delay a project that the federal government has been scrutinizing for more than five years.

At this point, there is little doubt about the big picture. After two thorough environmental analyses, State Department experts determined that the pipeline’s impact probably would be minimal, even on climate change-inducing carbon dioxide emissions. The economic rewards of extracting Canadian oil are too attractive and the options for getting it out of the country are too numerous. We would rather see Canadian crude traveling a well-built, well-regulated pipeline in the United States than on the rail cars, barges and ocean tankers that will move it until cheaper options inevitably come online.
It's interesting that the Post doesn't recognize a pattern here. Virtually everything that Barack Obama's administration does is overtly political—national interest be damned. Delay provisions of laws that might hurt Democratic outcomes in the mid-term elections? No problem. Selectively enforce laws so that the political base will remain happy? No worries. Stonewall investigations into government malfeasance and corruption? Just another day. Delay necessary decisions for as long as possible, hoping that things will resolve themselves? Typical.  Keystone is small potatoes, but in a way, it exemplifies some aspects of Barack Obama and his administration perfectly.

The title of the Post's editorial is "Keystone XL's continued delay is absurd." That should come as no surprise from an administration that is a theater of the absurd.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

12 Rules

In a few weeks, students will begin to receive their undergraduate and graduate degrees from universities across the country. They will enter an economy that remains bleak, with few good jobs, slow growth, and a wide variety of impediments so that change for the better is unlikely to occur. Those who leave degree programs in gender studies, or theatre arts, or similar soft curricula will be ill-prepared for the real world, and as a consequence, struggle to find meaningful jobs. Worse, they will be in debt because of the college loans they were encouraged to accept.

Rob Wile remembers a 335-word commencement address, presented at Cal Berkeley in 2007 by Nobel economist Thomas Sargent. Every graduate should read it, and then re-read it. Here's what Thomas Sargeant had to say to a large audience of Berkeley grads:
I remember how happy I felt when I graduated from Berkeley many years ago. But I thought the graduation speeches were long. I will economize on words.

Economics is organized common sense. Here is a short list of valuable lessons that our beautiful subject teaches.

1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.

2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.

3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts, and their preferences than you do.

4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That is why social safety nets don’t always end up working as intended.

5. There are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency.

6. In an equilibrium of a game or an economy, people are satisfied with their choices. That is why it is difficult for well-meaning outsiders to change things for better or worse.

7. In the future, you too will respond to incentives. That is why there are some promises that you’d like to make but can’t. No one will believe those promises because they know that later it will not be in your interest to deliver. The lesson here is this: before you make a promise, think about whether you will want to keep it if and when your circumstances change. This is how you earn a reputation.

8. Governments and voters respond to incentives too. That is why governments sometimes default on loans and other promises that they have made.

9. It is feasible for one generation to shift costs to subsequent ones. That is what national government debts and the U.S. social security system do (but not the social security system of Singapore).

10. When a government spends, its citizens eventually pay, either today or tomorrow, either through explicit taxes or implicit ones like inflation.

11. Most people want other people to pay for public goods and government transfers (especially transfers to themselves).

12. Because market prices aggregate traders’ information, it is difficult to forecast stock prices and interest rates and exchange rates.
Concise and wise economic 'rules' that govern both personal actions and the actions of institutions. It's really too bad that most students won't understand their broader meaning and won't recognize when our current national leaders try to convince them that these 'rules' can be broken.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Academic Justice

I have commented on Paul Krugman, the left's favorite economist, many times over the years. His extreme ideological positions, coupled with his many factual inaccuracies, exaggerations, and downright bad advice about the federal government's economic strategy makes him an amusing read. Over the past six months, Krugman has joined the president and other leaders of the Democratic party in lamenting "income inequality." He has been an outspoken critic that lambasts "the rich," and the tax structure (the rich don't pay enough taxes) at every opportunity. He fervently believes in income redistribution and is a champion of that position.

James Taranto comments on Krugman's latest job:
Being a "distinguished professor" of economics at the City University of New York is nice work if you can get it. "During year-one," the boss explains in a letter to the new hire, "you will not be expected to teach or supervise students." In subsequent years, "you will teach one seminar per year." In addition, the boss informs the distinguished professor that he "will play a modest role in our public events" and "will be asked to contribute to the buildup" of one of the university's programs.

The pay is $225,000 a year, plus a $10,000 expense budget--and the distinguished prof gets summers off. reports that CUNY's new distinguished professor is none other than former Enron adviser Paul Krugman. The program he'll be helping build up in exchange for this generous compensation is the Luxembourg Income Study Center and particularly its "inequality initiative."

Isn't that rich?

Yes, it turns out lamenting income inequality can be quite a lucrative occupation. By comparison, Gawker notes that adjunct professors at CUNY make about $3,000 per course, or 1/75th Krugman's rate, and undistinguished tenured professors earn a maximum of $116,364, a little over half Krugman's salary, although presumably many of them teach a full course load. According to 2010-12 census data reported by the public radio station WNYC, the median household income in New York City is $50,711, or 22.5% of Krugman's CUNY salary.

Typical of many limousine liberals, Krugman arrogantly talks the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk, well ...

If Professor Krugman feels as strongly about income inequality as he himself suggests, it would seem only reasonable that he reject the "generous" monetary offer from CUNY and accept no more than the average pay for a tenured professor.  After all, income inequality is a really, really bad thing, isn't it? And ... in the interest of 'academic justice,' he should offer to teach just as many credit hours as the average tenured professor.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Climate Justice

Today, the editors at Bloomberg write:
It's clear that human behavior is changing the climate, but just how quickly, and with what exact consequences, is harder to say. The precise effects on weather, sea levels, incidence of disease and drought, species diversity, ocean acidification and so forth -- none of this is known with certainty.

The point is, it doesn’t need to be. Policies to mitigate climate change are best viewed as insurance against great but imperfectly understood risks. Every voter understands the concept of insurance.
So ... we don't know the extent of anthropogenic effects, we don't know the probability that risks will be realized or what true impact they might have, and don't have a reliable mitigation strategy, but we must act immediately and impose unproven draconian measures to address a very, very hazy threat. It's critically important to adopt a "ready, fire, aim" strategy.

Given this lack of clarity, why aren't Bloomberg's editors, along with Barack Obama, Al Gore, John Kerry, their supporters, and their mindless cheerleaders in the media worrying equally about another threat -- the impact of a 0.5km asteroid hitting the earth. We understand the problem far better than we do climate change, we have technology that could be applied to mitigate the risk, and yet we don't act.

A large asteroid strike would end all life on the planet for thousands of years. There is an irrefutable historical record that indicates it will happen—we just don't know when. We're studying the problem, but doing little else to mitigate it. Why? Because the risk is very, very small, just as the hyperbolic projections of calamity due to climate change are very, very small. But "climate change" has been embraced by our "leaders." The other (a extermination event!), well, it's just not important. Let's examine why climate change has been elevated to the status of a religion.

The recent political summary of the 2013-14 UN IPCC Report on Climate Change predicts global calamity unless all of us listen to the acolytes of the new climate change religion. Those of us who are heretics were a bit more skeptical, arguing that claims made by the acolytes are anti-scientific and counter-factual. More important, the claims in the report summary contradict the contents of the report itself.

Francis Menton has an interesting take on all of this when he notes that most of the world lives in poverty. He writes:
Poverty, in the sense of deprivation of basic goods and services, in very large part is a result of insufficient access to energy. Access to energy means electricity for our homes, businesses and computers; it means transportation, in the form of automobiles, trains and planes; it means heating in cold weather and cooling in hot weather; it means functioning hospitals and health care facilities; it means mechanized agricultural methods that ameliorate the effects of bad weather and pests; it means access to information; and many other things equally important. Without access to energy, people are trapped in local areas to lead a life of basic subsistence if not periodic hunger and starvation.
The acolytes, sitting as they do on a high moral perch, would have us all believe that they care, really, really care, about eliminating poverty in places like Africa, India, parts of Asia and the Middle East. And yet, they fight the very things that might reduce poverty in the developing world. Menton writes:
Given the serious hardship faced by the world’s poor in the absence of energy access, one would think that a top priority of the U.N. would be finding ways to achieve that access as quickly, as cheaply, and as reliably as possible. But in fact, under the banner of so-called “climate justice,” the U.N. is doing exactly the opposite. It is doing its best to hobble, hinder and obstruct development of the cheapest and most reliable sources of energy in the third world, while instead advocating for massive transfers of wealth from rich countries, not to the poor people themselves, but instead to the governing cliques and wealthy elites in the poor countries.

So what is this U.N. “climate justice” campaign? On its public face, it is a campaign to have rich countries pay money to governments of poor countries to compensate the poor countries for alleged harm resulting from “climate change.” A U.N. agency called UN-NGLS (UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service) is leading the charge. Their home page for “Climate Justice for a Changing Planet” can be found at The basic idea of the campaign is that the big problem facing poor countries is not poverty or lack of energy access, but rather climate change, and that the solution to climate change is to have taxpayers in rich countries transfer money to governments of poor countries so they can supposedly spend the money to ameliorate the climate change. Here is an excerpt from the Climate Justice home page of UN-NGLS:
There is little doubt that climate change will lead to unprecedented changes in the natural environment, which will in turn affect the way we live, with potentially dramatic consequences on our health, energy sources and food production systems. There is also increasing recognition that these impacts are being felt disproportionately by poor people who already live under precarious conditions. Climate change, with its many facets, further exacerbates existing inequalities faced by these vulnerable groups.
The acolytes of the climate change religion are predominantly left-leaning. What fascinates me about their ideology is that they repeatedly focus on far-off pseudo-problems (e.g., fantasical claims of climate calamity), rather that near-term problems. They repeated offer fantasy solutions that cannot be proven effective or even wise and whose unintended consequences cannot be judged, rather than offering near-term solutions to real problems (e.g., a lack of inexpensive energy access in the third world) that can be solved, if sufficient political will is mustered.

Whether it's social justice or climate justice (they truly do love the sound of the word "justice") their "solutions" have a through-the-looking-glass feel to them.

But no matter. The climate change acolytes ignore the following statements (compiled by Roger Pielke, Jr.) from the very IPCC Report they celebrate:
  • "There is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century”
  • “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin”
  • “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale”
  • “In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems”
  • “In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century due to lack of direct observations, geographical inconsistencies in the trends, and dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. Based on updated studies, AR4 conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated. However, it is likely that the frequency and intensity of drought has increased in the Mediterranean and West Africa and decreased in central North America and north-west Australia since 1950”
  • “In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low.
But reading these extracts from the scientific body of the IPCC Report forces the acolytes back through the looking glass—where science doesn't matter, facts are irrelevant, and only belief holds sway. After all, in the climate change religion, it's all about moral preening and little else.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tax Day

Today is Tax Day. The federal government will collect approximately $1.4 trillion from individual taxpayers who pay income tax. Who are these taxpayers? Only approximately 50 percent of all people who earn an income. The remaining 50 percent? They pay nothing or get tax credits. Of the $1.4 trillion collected, approximately $427 billion will be needed to pay the interest on our national debt.

No worries, say progressive economists, Barack Obama, and most democrats. Really? Thirty percent of all income tax dollars collected provide no benefit to the citizens and are used solely to service our debt. And it's getting worse year by year. And there's nothing to worry about?

In an effort to change the subject and move the media and low information voters away from this harsh reality, Democrats have adopted this year's favorite meme—"income inequality" and it's corollary, "the rich don't pay their fair share of taxes." This coupled with the demonization of the "1 percent" (a.k.a., financially successful Americans) provides a hat trick for Leftist class warfare.

Democrats actively encourage the widely held belief that 'the rich" avoid taxes to the extent that the burden is placed on the middle class and the poor. Problem is, like many other class warfare memes, this is pure fantasy.

Bob Adlemann reports the following statistics on this Tax Day, 2014:
Jane Wells, a business news reporter for CNBC, after reviewing the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on who pays income taxes in America, claimed that the rich pay them all. The CBO, wrote Wells, showed that the top 20 percent pay nearly 93 percent of all income taxes, [emphasis mine] while the top 40 percent pay 106 percent of them.

How is that possible? The bottom fifth of wage earners get more from the government than they pay in taxes. Hence, the anomaly of the so-called rich paying more than 100 percent of all income taxes received by the government.

The CBO’s math is straightforward: For the year 2010, the bottom fifth earned “market income” — wages, business income, capital gains, retirement income, and so on — of $8,100 per person. But they also received “government transfers” — cash payments and in-kind benefits such as SNAP — of $22,700, leaving them with a per-person after-tax income of $30,800. Each person’s income tax liability in that group? Exactly zero.
The Left responds that the 1 percent have an inordinate share of national income compared to the share of taxes they pay—the core "income inequality" argument. Again, a canard. Steven Moore reports that IRS data indicates that "the wealthiest 1 percent of the population earn 19 per­cent of the income but pay 37 percent of the income tax." The key word in that sentence is "earn." To acquire their income, the one percent do actual work, build businesses that provide jobs for the rest of us, make investments in other businesses that provide jobs for the rest of us, buy government bonds that fund the debt for the rest of us, by state and municipal bonds that fund local government, and pay approximately $266 billion in income taxes. That sounds like a "fair share" to me.

Instead of focusing on the 1 percent or income inequality, it might make more sense to consider the taxation disparity between those who pay taxes and those who do not. That gap is growing rapidly. Maybe we should call it 'Taxation Inequality.'

If tax and spend big government policies continue (and there is every likelihood that they will) a smaller and smaller percentage of Americans will pay the cost of government for a growing majority. That majority will demand still more 'freebies' in the form of entitlements and government programs, will elect big government politicians who will keep the spigot wide open, and 'taxation inequality' will grow even more. After all, if you're not paying income taxes, why not vote for big government—it's free money, isn't it?

True believers think this can go on forever. But fantasy and reality will inevitably collide, and when they do, reality will prevail. Things that cannot go on forever, won't.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Jill Abramson is the Executive Editor of The New York Times, one of the media's most loyal and outspoken supporters of the Obama administration. The NYT editorial policy has been to support virtually every move by Barack Obama, to de-emphasize or positively spin his many domestic and foreign policy failures, to virtually ignore the serious scandals that continue to swirl around the Obama administration, and to otherwise protect a presidency that they believe is historic.

It is surprising, therefore, that the same Jill Abramson is concerned about Obama's treatment of the media.  The Takeaway reports:
Jill Abramson succeeded Keller [a past NYT Executive Editor] as executive editor in July 2011, in the midst of the Obama era. She tells Takeaway host John Hockenberry that the White House's relationship with the press has only deteriorated.

"The Obama years are a benchmark for a new level of secrecy and control," says Abramson. "It's created quite a challenging atmosphere for The New York Times, and for some of the best reporters in my newsroom who cover national security issues in Washington."

Abramson says that the administration's criminal leak investigations have presented large obstacles to news coverage.

"There have been seven of them, and one of them right now threatens my colleague James Risen who has been subpoenaed in one of these cases," she says. "Collectively, they have really, I think, put a chill on reporting about national security issues in Washington."

Those that are covering national security, according to Abramson, say that is has never been more difficult to get information.

"Sources who want to come forward with important stories that they feel the public needs to know are just scared to death that they're going to be prosecuted," she says. "Reporters fear that they will find themselves subpoenaed in this atmosphere."

Abramson says that the Obama Administration uses legal loopholes to make things difficult for journalists and media organizations. She says, for example, that the Obama Justice Department pursues cases against reporters under an obscure provision of the 1917 Espionage Act.
Yet, Abramson's "reporters" do nothing to expose the secrecy, the scandals, and the failures.

Over at CBS, Sharyl Attkinson, once of the few actual journalists at the network (she resigned in frustration a month ago) gives an interview on FoxNews (the other media hamsters avert their eyes] reported by Newsbusters:
Appearing on Thursday's O'Reilly Factor, former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson claimed that CBS "had barely begun to scratch the surface" of the "Fast and Furious" scandal before the network moved on from the story. She noted that the network showed similar reluctance for its coverage of Benghazi and the ObamaCare rollout.

Before her resignation last month, Attkisson covered Obama administration controversies like "Fast and Furious" and Benghazi and her reporting helped the CBS Evening News win the Edward R. Murrow award in 2012. Yet she told O'Reilly that higher-ups at the network moved on from the "Fast and Furious"scandal "due to lack of interest, well before we found answers to a lot of questions."

"It just came to be that, I don't think on the viewer's part, but on the people that decide what stories go into the broadcast and what there's room for, they felt fairly early on that this story was over when I felt as though we had barely begun to scratch the surface," she revealed.
She went on to state her reporting on Obamacare, Benghazi, and the IRS scandal were disregarded and spiked by the network's producers. She was told to back off. Ominously, Attkinson reported last year that she believed her personal and office computers were hacked by parties unknown.

What's fascinating is that the MSM has become (sorry for the coarse language) Obama's bitch. They are abused by this administration, even admit that they are being abused, but like many abused spouses, have neither the courage nor the will to stand up for what is right.

It's ironic, the NYT and CBS (along with almost every other MSM outlet) told us in 2008 that the Obama administration would be different. That is would be historically open, transparent, competent, bipartisan, inclusive, and honest. It is none of those things—in fact, it is historically closed, incompetent, hyperpartisan, divisive, and dishonest.

And still, the MSM soldiers on, avoiding its responsibility to report the facts, delineate major mistakes, and most important, expose dishonesty. There is no broad-based media counterbalance for this presidency and therefore, Jill Abramson should express no surprise that this administration acts badly and with impunity.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Over the past six months, the Democratic party and their allies on the left have pushed a meme—the GOP "War on Women"—intended to (1) allow their hamsters in the media to focus away from a series of major administration scandals, an anemic economy, high debt, and a disastrous foreign policy and (2) do battle space preparation for their likely presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

It is therefore ironic that the Islamic activists, left-wing students and academics protested when it was announced that one of the true heroines of the early 21st century, Ayann Hirsi Ali, was to receive an honorary degree from Brandeis University at its 2014 commencement ceremony.

Hirsi Ali has spoken out against Islamist doctrine when no one else would. She has decried the violence of Islamist ideology, with particular emphasis on violence against women. She has lived under the rule of Islamists and their Sharia law, been subjected the death threats and Fatwas, and been expelled from the Netherlands because the government could not protect her. Yet, Islamic activists, supported wholeheartedly by left-wing useful idiots, argued that she should not speak. Being academia, the Left's intolerance won out, and her invitation to the commencement was rescinded. 

Yesterday, Hirsi Ali published an abbreviated version of the commencement address she would have given at Brandeis. Here's an excerpt:
Another striking feature of the countries I have just named [Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon], and of the Middle East generally, is that violence against women is also increasing. In Saudi Arabia, there has been a noticeable rise in the practice of female genital mutilation. In Egypt, 99% of women report being sexually harassed and up to 80 sexual assaults occur in a single day.

Especially troubling is the way the status of women as second-class citizens is being cemented in legislation. In Iraq, a law is being proposed that lowers to 9 the legal age at which a girl can be forced into marriage. That same law would give a husband the right to deny his wife permission to leave the house.

Sadly, the list could go on. I hope I speak for many when I say that this is not the world that my generation meant to bequeath yours. When you were born, the West was jubilant, having defeated Soviet communism. An international coalition had forced Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The next mission for American armed forces would be famine relief in my homeland of Somalia. There was no Department of Homeland Security, and few Americans talked about terrorism.

Two decades ago, not even the bleakest pessimist would have anticipated all that has gone wrong in the part of world where I grew up. After so many victories for feminism in the West, no one would have predicted that women's basic human rights would actually be reduced in so many countries as the 20th century gave way to the 21st.
So ... here we have a true champion of women's rights talking about an actual, not left-wing fantasy, "war on women." But because Hirsi Ali's arguments are grounded in reality, not fantasy, her views cannot be tolerated by the extreme left. Because she names actual, not imaginary, perpetrators, she must be silenced. Because she has lived the war on women, instead of being coddled in a cocoon of delusional leftist thinking, she must be condemned.

I wish I could say that all of this is shocking. It isn't. This level of intolerance for opposing views is typical in academia. It's also shameful.

UPDATE (4/13/2014) :
Jeff Jacoby notes that the left-wing intolerance leveled at Hirsi Ali was precipitated by CAIR (an Islamist front group that has been discussed many times in this blog over the years). He also notes CAIR is trying to censor a new movie, "Honor Diaries," a documentary that tells the stories of nine Muslim women, "all of whom are passionate about exposing the terrible abuses women and girls in many Muslim cultures suffer in the name of family honor. None thinks such horrors should be excused or neglected out of a misplaced cultural sensitivity or political correctness."

Jacoby writes about the hypocrisy of modern feminists in the United States:
People prepared to label opposition to employer-paid contraceptives a “war on women” are generally much less willing to channel their outrage at the savagery of honor killings or child marriages in non-Western societies. “They fear treading on cultural toes,” says Jasvinder Sanghera, one of the film’s featured advocates. “We’re constantly having to remind them that cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable.”
Oh, but it does. In the world of left-wing identity politics, certain cultures can commit atrocities and are given a pass. The "war on women" occurs only in western countries that have tried hardest to remove boundaries and correct inequities. It might be effective politics, but it is profoundly dishonest and monumentally cynical.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ugly and Divisive

Another member of Barack Obama's list of 2s (read the first paragraph) has decided that offense (both meanings of the word) is far better than defense. ABC News reports:
A fed-up Attorney General Eric Holder is accusing congressional critics of launching “unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive” attacks on him and the Obama administration.

During a speech to the National Action Network, a group founded by Rev. Al Sharpton [an individual who has a VERY shady past], in New York on Wednesday lauding the organization’s effort to advance racial equality, a heated Holder went a little off-script.

“Forget about me [specifically]. Look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee,” Holder told the crowd. “What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”
Since Mr. Holder is looking back at other Attorneys General, what other Attorney General has stonewalled (for almost 4 years) a gun-running scandal that originated under his command at DoJ? What other Attorney General has refused to turn over emails and other pertinent information about that scandal and has been held in contempt of Congress as a result? What other Attorney General has dragged his heels investigating the weaponization of a government agency (the IRS), spending almost one year doing absolutely nothing? What other Attorney General has leaked that he intends to disregard any criminal complain against Lois Lerner, an IRS executive who clearly broke the law by targeting American citizens for political purposes? What other Attorney General brought felony campaign finance charges against a movie maker (Dinesh DeSousa) who made a critically acclaimed film that probed Barack Obama and his beliefs? What other attorney general has fought to oppose every attempt to validate voters throughout the country, thereby aiding and abetting voter fraud?And that's the short list.

Eric Holder, like virtually everyone else on Obama's list of 2s, is hyperpartisan. Like everyone else in the Obama administration, he feels that he can denigrate his critics, demonize the president's opponents, play fast and loose with the facts and the truth, and then whine when his critics and opponents begin to play hardball.

What truly is "ugly and divisive" is an administration that is increasingly lawless, that has lied repeated to the American public on everything from Benghazi to Obamacare, from Fast and Furious to the IRS, that has a senior IRS executive that has refused to testify before congress, that is quick to blame the opposition party for its own failures and poor decisions, that attacks media outlets that disagree with it and reporters who try to ferret out the truth, that brings legal action not against leakers, but in an unprecedented move, again reporters who publish the leaks, that by even The New York Times admission, is the least transparent in modern times.

All of that is "ugly and divisive."

UPDATE (4/13/2014):
John Fund and Hans Von Spakovsky comment further:
A veteran Justice Department lawyer says that Attorney General Eric Holder has politicized the department in a way he hadn’t seen before. In short, “Holder is the worst person to hold the position of attorney general since the disgraced John Mitchell.”

Now in his sixth year as attorney general, Holder has increasingly tilted the department in an ideological direction. It’s one thing to emphasize President Obama’s legal priorities. It’s quite another to decide not to enforce certain federal laws — such as the ban on marijuana — or urge state attorney generals to refuse to defend local laws on same-sex marriage. Legal changes are achieved through legislation, not through a sudden whim not to enforce them. No other attorney general has acted in this manner.

Holder clearly believes he has the inherent power to politicize his department. When House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte asked him last week whether he believed there were any limits to the administration’s prosecutorial discretion. “There is a vast amount of discretion that a president has — and more specifically that an attorney general has,” Holder responded.

But courts have frequently disagreed with Holder’s interpretations of the law.

The clear implication from Holder is that he and the president are being treated harshly because they are African American—a not-so-subtle charge of racism. George Will responds:
Look, liberalism has a kind of Tourette's Syndrome these days. It’s just constantly saying the word racism and racist. It’s an old saying in the law; if you have the law on your side, argue the law. If you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have neither, pound the table. This is pounding the table. There’s a kind of intellectual poverty now. Liberalism hasn't had a new idea since the 1960s except ObamaCare and the country doesn't like it. Foreign policy is a shambles from Russia to Iran to Syria to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And the recovery is unprecedentedly bad. So what do you do? You say anyone criticizes us is a racist.
As 2016 approaches the Tourette's syndrome will remain, but the word "racism" will be replaced by the phrase "war on women." Criticize any progressive female politician of substantive issues or question her accomplishments or experience, and I can just about you'll be labeled a misogynist.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


The best way to judge an executive is to examine his direct reports—the people he hires or appoints to handle major functions within his organization. As I have noted a number of times over the years, consultants often privately rate an executive on a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being absolutely incompetent and 10 being absolutely excellent. There is an aphorism that follows. It identifies the competence of the direct reports that an executive hires—"3s hire 2s and 9s hire 10s."

I'm not personally convinced that Barack Obama has demonstrated executive ability, decision making, or competence that allow him to claim a grade of 3, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, the aphorism "3s hire 2s and 9s hire 10s" applies perfectly when many of his direct reports are considered. At the top of the 2s list is his bumbling Secretary of State, John Kerry.

The New York Times reports:
JERUSALEM — In an unusually pointed rebuke of an ally, the United States, Israel said on Wednesday that it was “deeply disappointed” by Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks a day earlier that appeared to lay primary blame on Israel for the crisis in the American-brokered Middle East peace talks ...

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Mr. Kerry said that both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides bore responsibility for “unhelpful” actions, but that the precipitating event of the impasse was Israel’s announcement of 700 new housing units for Jewish settlement in an area of Jerusalem across the 1967 lines, in territory the Palestinians claim for a future state.

“Poof, that was sort of the moment,” Mr. Kerry said. “We find ourselves where we are.”

In what is being referred to here as the “poof speech,” Mr. Kerry laid out the chain of events that led to the verge of a breakdown.

Clearly stung by Mr. Kerry’s version and his focus on the settlement issue, Israel countered on Wednesday that it was the Palestinians who had “violated their fundamental commitments” by applying last week to join 15 international conventions and treaties.
So let me get this straight. The Palestinians do not recognize Israel's right to exist. Therefore, with their outrageous demand that they have "the right to return," they lay claim to the entire country, not just the pre-1967 borders. So ... any construction anywhere in Israel might be considered "unhelpful" as far a 'negotiations' are concerned.

And by the way, what makes the pre-1967 borders sacrosanct? Could it be statements by Barack Obama suggesting that those indefensible 1967 borders be the starting point for negotiations? That was something even the palestinians had dropped until Obama raised it to the level of a demand. This administration has done more the harm the relationship between Israel and the United States than any other administration in history.

It's rather sad that Barack Obama and John Kerry think so little of a staunch US ally that they continually lay blame for their own failures in Middle East foreign policy at the feet of Israel, that they suggest that the only democracy in the entire Middle East will be the target of sanctions should they not commit national suicide by agreeing to a peace with thugs who want to destroy them, and that they repeatedly disrepect Israeli prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu.

But then again, when a 3 and a 2 (I'm being VERY generous here) interact with a 9 or 10, they often feel very insecure and lash out mindlessly. Come to think of it, mindless action is the hallmark of this administration's Middle East policy.

UPDATE (4/10/2014):
Norman Podhoretz brutally dissects the through-the-looking-glass view (adopted widely by the left) that the palestinians are "victims" or "oppressed" and desserve the full supports of the "world community."  He begins with the following statement:
Provoked by the predictable collapse of the farcical negotiations forced by Secretary of State John Kerry on the Palestinians and the Israelis, I wish to make a confession: I have no sympathy—none—for the Palestinians. Furthermore, I do not believe they deserve any.

This, of course, puts me at daggers drawn with the enlightened opinion that goes forth from the familiar triumvirate of the universities, the mainstream media and the entertainment industry. For everyone in that world is so busy weeping over the allegedly incomparable sufferings of the Palestinians that hardly a tear is left for the tribulations of other peoples. And so all-consuming is the universal rage over the supposedly monumental injustice that has been done to the Palestinians that virtually no indignation is available for any other claimant to unwarranted mistreatment.

In my unenlightened opinion, this picture of the Palestinian plight is nothing short of grotesquely disproportionate. Let me leave aside the Palestinians who live in Israel as Israeli citizens and who enjoy the same political rights as Israeli Jews (which is far more than can be said of Palestinians who live in any Arab country), and let me concentrate on those living under Israeli occupation on the West Bank.
Podhoretz goes on relate the story of the palestinians in Gaza, given their own autonomy in 2005. The left hoped that a vibrant economy, some form of democratic rule, benefits to the average palastinan, etc. would result. It didn't instead, graft, corruption, violence, and dispair multiplied as Hamas thugs subjugated their own people.

He writes:
Speaking of Gaza, it can serve as a case study of the extent to which the plight of the Palestinians has been self-inflicted. Thus when every last Israeli was pulled out of Gaza in 2005, some well-wishers expected that the Palestinians, now in complete control, would dedicate themselves to turning it into a free and prosperous country. Instead, they turned it into a haven for terrorism and a base for firing rockets into Israel.

Meanwhile little or nothing of the billions in aid being poured into Gaza—some of it from wealthy American Jewish donors—went to improving the living conditions of the general populace. Which did not prevent a majority of those ordinary Palestinians from supporting Hamas, under whose leadership this order of priorities was more faithfully followed than it was under Fatah, its slightly less militant rival.

The palestinians are but one of dozens of dispossessed peoples on this planet. Why do they get an inordinate amount of attention, even after they have demonstrated repeatedly that their plight is of their own making?

Podhoretz concludes:
I for one pray that a day will come when the Palestinians finally let go of the evil intent toward Israel that keeps me from having any sympathy for them, and that they will make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state in their immediate neighborhood. But until that day arrives, the "peace process" will go on being as futile as it has been so many times before and as it has just proved once again to be. Another thing that never changes: When John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, it was the Israelis he blamed for this latest diplomatic fiasco.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


Most sports commentators didn't give them a chance. Not at the beginning of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (a.k.a. March Madness), not in the second week, not against mightly #1 seed Florida in the semis, and certainly not against Kentucky. After all, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies we playing the bluest of blue chip players from the bluest of blue chip programs with fans the bled blue. But, as they say, that's why they play the game.

During the NCAA finals, UConn never lost the lead—not once. They used athleticism, fierce defense, and a well-designed strategy to shut down bigger, more talented players. The best guard tandem in the country, Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright took the vaunted Kentucky guards out of their rhythm and took the entire Wildcat team out of its game. They weathered a few fierce Kentucky runs, but never lost their poise.

As a twice UConn alum, it was a beautiful thing to watch.

Sports is a near perfect meritocracy. Unrelenting practice, desire, enthusiasm, teamwork, risk, and talent are rewarded. Sure there are intangibles. In the case of UConn, Coach Kevin Ollie—a second year head coach, following in the footsteps of the legendary Jim Calhoun—helped his team achieve a remarkable level of cohesiveness, selflessness, along with the burning hunger to win it all.

UConn men's basketball has now won four national championships in the past 15 years, making it one of the pre-eminent basketball programs in history. In an era where history is often compressed into months or a few years, UConn 15 year run is epic—better than Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville or any other of the historical basketball "powers" during that time span.  With this championship, UConn is now a member of that list.


And this from Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant:
ARLINGTON, Texas — They took the stairs. They took them one step at a time. They took them one by one when there wasn't anything to play for last season and they were the pariahs of the NCAA. They took them one step at a time even after Louisville smoked them three times this season.

Their coach, this NBA vagabond, this UConn blueblood, kept insisting they take one step at a time through the early victories and a 9-0 start that left them ninth in the national polls. Climbing, climbing, up this skyscraper of a season, huffing and puffing at times, stubbing their toes at other times, even briefly dropping out of the national polls.

"We're going to take the stairs," Kevin Ollie said that day he was hired in September 2012. "Escalators are for cowards."
Read the whole thing.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Another Sailboat

People born after, say, 1980 have been brought up on the notion that self-esteem, following your dreams, satisfying a thirst for adventure, and doing things that are out-of-the ordinary trump the mundane events of everyday life. There's a certain romantic attraction to that meme, and some of those people allow it to guide their life's path. At least for a time.

In many cases, it's the equivalent of "finding oneself," but there's a certain narcissistic element to it. In general, it's harmless, until it isn't.

Yesterday, ABC News reported:
U.S. sailors rescued an American family with an ill 1-year-old from a sailboat that broke down hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast — boarding them Sunday onto a San Diego-bound Navy ship so the girl could get medical treatment.

The baby girl, Lyra, was in stable condition at 8 a.m. Sunday when sailors helped her, her 3-year-old sister, Cora, and her parents, Charlotte and Eric Kaufman leave their sailboat and brought them aboard the USS Vandegrift.

The frigate was expected to arrive in San Diego midweek, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena said.

The Kaufmans were two weeks into a sailing trip around the world when Lyra developed a fever and a rash covering most of her body and wasn't responding to medications. After their 36-foot sailboat lost steering and communication abilities about 900 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, they sent a satellite call for help to the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday.

Four California Air National Guard members parachuted into the water and reached the boat Thursday night. The crew stabilized the girl and stayed by her side until the Navy frigate arrived at about 1 a.m. Sunday.

Sailors waited until daylight to move the family from their inoperable sailboat, "Rebel Heart," which authorities were in the process of sinking Sunday because it was taking on water, Bena said.

It was still not immediately known what illness the girl may have had.

Before the family left for the trip, Lyra had salmonella poisoning, but doctors cleared her to travel after she was healthy again, said Charlotte Kaufman's sister, Sariah Kay English.

When her sister first mentioned plans to sail with two young children, English recalled, "I thought it was nuts."

But English said the couple was always careful. Eric Kaufman is a Coast Guard-licensed captain who introduced sailing to Charlotte Kaufman during one of their early dates.

"They were not going into this blind. I knew they were doing this wisely," English said.

English initially was in daily email contact with the family but realized something was wrong when the communication stopped several days ago.
The open ocean is cruel, even if the captain of a 36 ft. sale boat has experience. Being "always careful" does not innoculate you from the vagaries of nature and chance. Violent storms, rogue waves, mechanical malfunctions, sickness, and many other dangers are all very real possibilities. Submitting two small children to these dangers is not only irresponsible, it is, to quote the sister of Charlotte Kaufman, "Nuts."

I suspect that this adventure had been the dream of either Charlotte or Eric Kaufman for some time. That's fine, but there's more to it. It's highly unlikely that their children understood the dangers that the journey imposed. They were put in harm's way, not out of necessity, but to satisfy an itch for adventure.

Fortunately, the Kaufmans and their children were saved by the US Navy. If the world were a fair place, the Kaufman's would now receive a very large bill for that service. At a minimum, paying off the bill would preclude them from buying another sailboat until their children turn 18.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Ink-Darkened Water

Last week, the president's trained hamsters in the media remained silent as the White House crowed about reaching its 7 million enrollment number for Obamacare. One week earlier, the administration couldn't tell us when 5 or 6 million had "enrolled," but on April 1st, their exactitude was amusing—not 7 million, but seven-point-one million. Of course, no rational person believed these numbers. In fact data from insurance companies and state exchanges indicate that between 20 and 40 percent of "enrollees" never pay for their policies, meaning they do NOT have insurance.

In addition, 6 million people lost their existing policies pre-Obamacare. How many of them simply switched to more expensive policies under Obamacare. The web site studiously does not ask whether an enrollee is simply moving from other insurance to Obamacare. That information would be politically damaging so ...

Peggy Noonan has a way of cutting through the BS. She writes:
[Obamacare's] biggest proponent in Congress, the Democratic speaker of the House, literally said—blithely, mindlessly, but in a way forthcomingly—that we have to pass the bill to find out what's in it. It is a cliché to note this. But really, Nancy Pelosi's statement was a historic admission that she was fighting hard for something she herself didn't understand, but she had every confidence regulators and bureaucratic interpreters would tell her in time what she'd done. This is how we make laws now.

Her comments alarmed congressional Republicans but inspired Democrats, who for the next three years would carry on like blithering idiots making believe they'd read the bill and understood its implications. They were later taken aback by complaints from their constituents. The White House, on the other hand, seems to have understood what the bill would do, and lied in a way so specific it showed they knew exactly what to spin and how. "If you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan, period." "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, period." That of course was the president, misrepresenting the facts of his signature legislative effort. That was historic, too. If you liked your doctor, your plan, your network, your coverage, your deductible you could not keep it. Your existing policy had to pass muster with the administration, which would fight to the death to ensure that 60-year-old women have pediatric dental coverage.
Remember back in 2009 when Obama and the democrats told us that ramming this legislation through without bipartisan support was necessary because 30 million people were uninsured. Gasp! 30 million! After four years, a cascade of unilateral politically motivated delays and modifications, how many of those 30 million have gotten insurance. Let's do the math.
  • Obamacare resulted in 6 million people losing their insurance.
  • Obamacare claims to have 7 million enrollees—absolutely fictitious, but let's take the number at face value.
Doing the math using the administration's fictitious numbers, that means that at most, there are 1 million fewer uninsured people. Hmmm. 1/30 or about 3 percent improvement in the number of uninsured has taken 4 years. Not very impressive. In fact, pathetic.

Again, Peggy Noonan comments:
What the bill declared it would do—insure tens of millions of uninsured Americans—it has not done. There are still tens of millions uninsured Americans. On the other hand, it has terrorized millions who did have insurance and lost it, or who still have insurance and may lose it.

The program is unique in that it touches on an intimate and very human part of life, the health of one's body, and yet normal people have been almost wholly excluded from the debate. This surely was not a bug but a feature. Given a program whose complexity is so utter and defeating that it defies any normal human attempt at comprehension, two things will happen. Those inclined to like the spirit of the thing will support it on the assumption the government knows what it's doing. And the opposition will find it difficult to effectively oppose—or repeal the thing—because of the program's bureaucratic density and complexity. It's like wrestling a manic, many-armed squid in ink-darkened water.
The Democratic Party owns this disastrous legislation and as always, hopes that opponents would shy away from fighting "a manic, many-armed squid in ink-darkened water." They hoped that fantasy would triumph over reality. They hoped that lies would somehow morph into truth, that simple arithmetic would redeem them when the numbers simply don't compute.

Now, reality has begun to seep into the "ink-darkened water," but the price, if any, that the democratic party will pay in November is not commensurate with the damage they have allowed to be done. That's a shame.

Saturday, April 05, 2014


After his disastrous attempts to manage the president's "red line" in Syria and his calamitous efforts to deal with Russia in the Ukraine, Barack Obama's bumbling Secretary of State, John Kerry, is ready for an encore. He has chosen the Arab-Israeli peace process. No matter that the Palestinians, as always, refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist, have no clear leader, are divided internally, and continue to press for "the right of return"—the logical equivalent to native American's demanding that they be allowed to take over much of mid-town Manhattan real-estate because they once lived there. Charles Krauthammer comments:
The crowning piece of diplomatic futility, however, is Kerry’s frantic effort to salvage the Arab-Israeli negotiations he launched, also against all odds and sentient advice. He’s made 12 trips to the region, aiming to produce a final Middle East peace within nine months.

It is month nine. The talks have gone nowhere. But this has been a fool’s errand from Day One. There never was any chance of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas concluding a final peace .

Now in the 10th year of a four-year term (there never was a reelection — he just stayed in office), Abbas doesn’t have the legitimacy. With half of Palestine (namely Gaza) controlled by his rejectionist mortal enemy Hamas, he doesn’t have the authority.

And he doesn’t have the intention. Abbas openly refuses to (a) recognize Israel as a Jewish state, (b) yield the so-called right of return (which would flood Israel with millions of Palestinians, destroying the state demographically) and (c) ever sign any agreement that ends the conflict once and for all.

Any one of these refusals makes a final peace impossible. All three make the entire process ridiculous. Kerry has given up trying to get a final agreement. He’s given up on even getting a “framework agreement.” He’s reduced to simply trying to keep the moribund talks going.
To say that this administration's Middle East foreign policy is an unmitigated disaster, doesn't begin to describe the damage it has done. In every country (Egypt, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran) and every situation, the Obama administration has made the wrong decisions, backed the wrong players, and increased the likelihood of violence and war. With respect to Israel, Barack Obama has been passive-aggressive. Claiming to be this small democracy's great friend (he is NOT) he shores up his domestic support in the nation's Jewish community. But his actions belie his words.

This latest attempt at pressuring Israel to make a very bad deal with a leaderless people isn't only irresponsible, it's dangerous—for Israel, for the region, and for the United States. It's also typical of what this administration does.

Abbas will go to the UN in a bid for "statehood" in an effort to create a UN-sanctioned terrorist state on Israel's border. Krauthammer comments:
One that Abbas is trying to make irrelevant. On Tuesday, he essentially turned over the negotiating table by signing on to 15 U.N. and international conventions as the “State of Palestine,” thus publicly undermining the essence of the U.S. peace process and humiliating the hapless secretary of state. Kerry will likely ignore the insult and carry on regardless. Uselessly.

Instead of trying to stave off the U.N. bid with the release of Palestinian terrorists and an American spy, perhaps the administration could simply stop fighting Congress, which developed a far more effective method. Under law, any U.N. agency that recognizes “Palestine” has its U.S. funds cut off.
Don't hold your breath.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Swallowing a Fly

It's reasonable to state that champions of big government are also strong proponents of "social justice," strong voices that speak against "income inequality," and strong defenders of increased spending, particularly the types of spending that increase dependency on the government. It's also reasonable to state that the same ideological mindset never spends much time examining contemporaneous experiments (in big government, social justice, income inequality, or dependency) conducted in other countries. One such experiment has been on-going in Venezuela for the past decade, and the results are predictably awful.

Megan McArdle summarizes:
Venezuela’s economy is starting to remind me of the old woman who swallowed a fly. Those who attended kindergarten in the U.S. will well remember her saga:
There was an old woman who swallowed a bird,
How absurd! to swallow a bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
Perhaps she'll die.
. . . and on up through dogs and goats and cows, each one intended to deal with the animal that had preceded it down her gullet.

And why does this remind me of Venezuela’s economy? Well, first the late President Hugo Chavez diverted money from capital investment in the oil industry to “social investment” in the poor. Unlike the old lady with the fly, I do understand why he did that. And for a while, it worked -- oil production fell, and the decline was more than offset by rising oil prices. After a while, however, oil prices stopped rising, and Venezuela got into a spot of trouble. As the trouble got deeper, the government started having trouble laying its hands on ready cash.

“As the price tag of the Chavez/Maduro regime has grown, the country has dipped more and more into the coffers of its state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and (increasingly) the country’s central bank," Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins recently explained.

This created a little problem with Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar. Venezuela now has runaway inflation. Naturally, it needed to do something about that, so -- price controls. And currency restrictions. Hanke’s data show that the gap between the official exchange rate and the black-market rate for the bolivar has dramatically widened.

Any economist -- or, for that matter, anyone who slept through one semester of microeconomics -- can tell you what came next: shortages. It became regularly impossible to buy toilet paper, flour or anything else at controlled rates; when such items were available, lines were often hours long, and people started hoarding.
What Venezuela represents is socialism in action in modern times. Yet, the Left insists that there is no lesson to be learned, or at the very least, that Venezuela did it wrong, that their star, Hugo Chavez, wasn't the right leader, or didn't do enough, or ... No matter how many times the socialist experiment has failed throughout the last 100 years (and that's a lot of times), to the Left it never seems to be the big idea that has flaws, rather, it's just the implementation.

Under Barack Obama, the United States drifts toward a more socialist system—more dependency, more government intrusiveness, less individual freedom, an anemic economy, and astronomically high debt.

But no matter, if we transfer enough money by increasing taxes on "the rich" in the name of income inequality, we'll be able to continue our profligate ways, just as Venezuela's Chavez was able to raid his oil industry ("the rich") in the name of socialism. Until we can't. We can print money (think: "quantitative easing") year after year to buy our own debt, until the dollar begins to devalue, just as Venezuela's currency did. And then, under the next president, we can institute price controls to battle inflation (that was caused by printing money) "for the good of the working people," until we encounter shortages.

Impossible? Just as the citizens of Venezuela.

Of course, shortages have some merit, at least from the point of view of a corrupt, incompetent socialist government that doesn't want newspapers in Venezuela to print critical stories. This from Manuel Ruada:
Over the past four months, six newspapers in Venezuela have had to shut down their print editions due to chronic printing paper shortages according to Venezuela's Institute for Press and Society. These shutdowns limit the amount of news and opinion that Venezuelans can receive on their country's escalating political crisis, and on protests against president Nicolas Maduro.
Unintended positive consequences for big government proponents! Of course in the United States, the hamsters in the media have been trained well. They tend not to write critical stories about this administration so paper shortages simply won't matter. Oh well.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Hard Work

This morning, the media hamsters were dutifully scurrying about reporting on the latest UN IPCC reports that, they claim, predict climate disaster—the oceans inundating major cites, humongous hurricanes, tornadoes and droughts, food shortages, and hey, here's a new one, massive social unrest. All of this, according to the IPCC is due to too much carbon—not natural climatic cycles, not the sun's activity, not changing ocean currents—no, too much carbon!

How much is too much? No one really knows. What is the percentage impact on climate? No one knows. Have the models that predict this been vetted, are they accurate? Not exactly. How can we explain massive climatic swings before the anthropogenric injection of carbon dioxide? Irrelevant! What about the dramatic near term reduction in warming? A blip!

Of course, the UN solution involves trillions of dollars transferred from developed countries to poor countries with the onus on Western nations (who, parenthetically, have already reduced emissions across the board). What about China and India—the world's most significant polluter's? Let's not talk about that.

Anyhow, what the media hamsters studiously avoid is a more detailed discussion in the IPCC report. It's presented in dry scientific language (much less drama) and although reportedly it was edited to tone down any hint of equivocation, Matt Ridley summarizes:
The forthcoming report apparently admits that climate change has extinguished no species so far and expresses "very little confidence" that it will do so. There is new emphasis that climate change is not the only environmental problem that matters and on adapting to it rather than preventing it. Yet the report still assumes 70% more warming by the last decades of this century than the best science now suggests. This is because of an overreliance on models rather than on data in the first section of the IPCC report—on physical science—that was published in September 2013 ...
The IPCC's September 2013 report abandoned any attempt to estimate the most likely "sensitivity" of the climate to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The explanation, buried in a technical summary not published until January, is that "estimates derived from observed climate change tend to best fit the observed surface and ocean warming for [sensitivity] values in the lower part of the likely range." Translation: The data suggest we probably face less warming than the models indicate, but we would rather not say so.
Of course, the left-wing proponents of climate change have adopted climate catastrophe as a psuedo-religion, so modification in projections based on deeper study hold little credence if they conflict with their religious dogma.

Those of us who are climate change 'heretics' (that's a more appropriate word than "deniers" given the religious aspects of true believers) simply suggest that we should understand the problem before we try to solve it by spending trillions, ruining industries, displacing people, and otherwise bouncing off walls without a clue of where all of this is headed.

Just today, Wired online presents a fascinating profile on Freeman Dyson, a genius mathematician who has accomplished more in science in a weekend that Al Gore has accomplished in a lifetime. When asked why he has taken the "controversial" heretic's position on climate change, he responded:
[Wired]: With a majority of scientists on the other side of this issue, what would it take to convince you to switch sides?

[Dyson]: What I’m convinced of is that we don’t understand climate, and so that’s sort of a neutral position. I’m not saying the majority is necessarily wrong. I’m saying that they don’t understand what they’re seeing. It will take a lot of very hard work before that question is settled, so I shall remain neutral until something very different happens.
But "hard work" and thorough analysis are anethema to the true believers. Barack Obama, Al Gore, and John Kerry (leaders of the climate change religion) would rather propose "solutions" before the problem is understood—after all, only heretics like Dyson, counsel a more measured and rational approach.

Dyson's comments, along with those of many heretics on climate change are rejected out of hand by the Left. These comments infuriate true believers, but for just a moment. They'll then do what all religious fanatics tend to do—reject any evidence that conflicts with true belief and plod onward in search of a holy grail.

UPDATE (3 April 14)

If the hamsters of the mainstream media were doing their job, every outlet, including the climate change cheerleading NYT might report the following, summarized nicely by Rupert Darwall:
The 2013 IPCC Report] summary, as the object of intensive political editing by government officials, is a document designed to generate talking points for sympathetic politicians and pundits to re-spin. Scientific coherence is not its goal. Instead of raising the bar in pursuit of objectivity, the current working group doubled down on its 2007 summary: It unfurls a series of distortions designed to magnify the threats, ignore the benefits, and downplay the possibility of adapting to climate change.

Its most eye-catching claim is that negative impacts of climate change on crop yields are more common to date than positive impacts are. This improbable claim finds only the weakest support in the main body of the report, with its qualification that climate change played a “minor role.” It is, the report states, “extremely difficult” to define a clear baseline from which to assess the impact of climate change, and many non-climate factors are often difficult to quantify.

More egregiously, the summary speaks of rapid price increases following climate extremes since the 2007 report. This negligence amounts to downright dishonesty, as the summary omits mention of one of the principal causes of the 2007–08 spike in food prices, which is highlighted in the main body of the report. It was not climate change that increased food costs, but climate policies in the form of increased use of food crops in biofuel production, exacerbated by higher oil prices and government embargoes on food exports.

In attempting to attribute changes in farm output to climate change, the IPCC makes heavy use of models linking climate to agriculture, most of which assume that farmers don’t change their behavior as the climate changes. Instead of relying on speculative models based on the condescending assumption that farmers are robots and don’t adapt, a more intelligent approach would be to examine how farmers and agricultural output have reacted to climate change in the past. But the IPCC rendered this approach impossible when it erased previous periods during which temperatures might have been higher than they are now (symbolized by the Hockey Stick in the IPCC’s 2001 report).
It's interesting that the climate change religion is built on distortions, omissions and out-and-out lies. Those who disagree (the "deniers") are heretics who are demonized. The intent is to frighten—not to inform, to coerce, not the analyze. But that should come as no surprise, given that's the general strategy of those who champion this junk science.

UPDATE (4/7/2014):
The Wall Street Journal comments further:
The IPCC's "Fifth Assessment Report," or AR5, is generating the usual alarmist headlines: "Impacts on All Continents, Worse to Come" was typical. That's partly a function of what the IPCC frontloads into the 28-page "summary for policymakers," the only portion of the report that most politicians or journalists ever bother reading, and that is sexed up for mass media consumption.

So it's worth diving deeper into the report, where a much more cautious picture of the state of climate science comes into view. Gone are some of the false alarmist claims from the last report, such as the forecast that the Himalayan glaciers would vanish by 2035 or that hurricanes are becoming more intense. "Current data sets," the report admits, "indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century." Recall the false claims of climate cause and storm effect last year after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines.

Absent, too, are claims such as the one made in 2005 that global warming would create 50 million "climate refugees" by 2010 (later pushed back to 2020). In its place, we have the refreshingly honest admission that "current alarmist predictions of massive flows of so-called 'environmental refugees' or 'environmental migrants' are not supported by past experiences of responses to droughts and extreme weather events and predictions for future migration flows are tentative at best."

The report is also more cautious about temperature predictions. It acknowledges that the rate of warming between 1998 and 2012 "is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951," and it predicts modest temperature increases through 2035 of between 1° and 1.5° Celsius. More importantly, it acknowledges that "the innate behavior of the climate system imposes limits on the ability to predict its evolution."
Hmmm. It's interesting that the media hamsters never mention any of this as they repeat the dishonest and alarmist garbage contained in an IPCC report "Summary" that does not in any way summarize the true contents of the report.